good lecture

I saw Lebbeus Wood talk last night, and it was very interesting. He’s an architect of many peculiar […]

I saw Lebbeus Wood talk last night, and it was very interesting. He’s an architect of many peculiar things, including uninhabitable spaces. He believes that an architect should not wait for clients to design, but that an architect is a social agent with an obligation to try to answer hard questions. So he makes things like scars for buildings wounded by war.

He said one thing that got me a it het up (well several, but this is relevent to the things I’ve been thinking about lately). He said “Design is about predcition.” i.e. we create designs because we are predicting how space will be used, and what will exist.

Which knocked me on the head so I realized that there are two kinds of design

Design as planning
Design as articulation

Design as articulation is what we think of when we hear design most of the time. You know, line-color-font to communicate and evoke. la.

Design as planning is what we mean when “non-designers” (and designers, sure) design something. Software design, interaction design and so on. Strategy for the act of building.

I’ve been thinking my nascent Venn diagram and thinkingit is half the picture. I realize it is… the planning half, with InfoD wandering into the articulation half. I’m working on a new diagram. Will post as soon as it’s vaguely acceptible.

This is probably old school for folks who did design in college (I did fine art, so I have a different vocabulary, where I have one….) so I’d love to hear from folks.


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  1. 1
    George Olsen

    It’s old school but we love ya anyway…

    As far as the diagram, it’s not as much about one area edging into another as much as two layers of the digram stacked on top of each other.

    One plane focuses on the structure — i.e. planning, the other focuses on the articulation, i.e. the representation.

    The various “I”s have different “elevations” between these two planes.

    InfoD tends to be more about articulation, but it works on top of an IA structure (as well as content strategy and graphic design for that matter). So it’s on the top plane, reaching downwards.

    IA focuses on underlying structure, but becomes articulate through the visible expression (labelling, etc.) and blurs into InfoD and UI when it comes articulating the underlying structure. So it’s on the bottom plane reaching upwards.

    InteractionD is also about planning/underlying structure, but gets articulated through UI.

    BTW, I was bothered by the lack of interface design in the original diagram. I think it really should be *InfoD/InterfaceD* — since they’re pretty similar (although not quite the same). The main difference is content vs. behavior.

  2. 2

    The idea of design as planning has indeed been around for awhile. One cybernetics inspired definition of design might be that design is a process of understanding a current state of a system and its environment, determining a second, desired state, planning the path from A to B, and managing the process of moving along the path.

    However, what I found interesting about Woods’ lecture was his emphasis on architecture post-planning, beyond planning. I think Woods and his compatriots are very interested in what is emerging as a fourth dimension of design (after form, meaning, & behavior) focused on the design of possibility, of enabling or self generating systems. (See the side bar in Hugh Dubberly’s excellent Gain article on Cooper’s process for a bit more on this, or Richard Buchanan’s writings for a more in-depth exploration).

    Woods described as a primary theme of his work the search for an heuristic architecture, an architecture which evokes but does not prescribe. He’s not interested in being precise about form (of product, of process) but rather prefers to concern himself with conceptualizing systems from which formal possibilities can emerge. In some ways, that involves considering design as a process of planning, but it isn’t planning in the way we usually think of it. Most often, planning seeks to identify a more or less stringent approach towards accomplishing some event — a list of things to do or a process for doing it. But Woods’ isn’t that specific; he’s not designing recipes or attributes of a system, but instead chooses to explore ways in which architects can reframe a set of considerations. He’s not planning a systematic approach, he’s making an argument about what we should pay attention to. His design is about creating systems for considering how to deal with rapidly changing conditions, for organizing structures in climates of uncertainty. Woods is pioneering in this respect, but certainly not alone.

    Woods’ lecture was given in conjunction with the Perfect Acts of Architecture exhibition currently running at SFMOMA. I encourage anyone who’s interested to check it out.

  3. 3

    I somewhat disagree with “Design is about prediction.” (but your whole train of thought regarding the Venn Diagram is dead on I believe.)

    I believe Design (especially electronic design) is about persuasion. It’s not about guessing how the space is going to be used, but rather on how to best lead the user through the space.

    This is done through subtle hints, eye-lines, highlights and so on. Good data design will help the user out in an “under-the-table” way, so they don’t even realize it. Bad design is immediately recognizable, because it smacks you in the face. Good design isn’t so noticeable, because of the very nature of it.

    You plan the design to articulate the way you want the information used. That’s the crux of it. Where it all comes together. “Traditional Design” would probably live as interior circles in your Venn Diagram. Articulation design living more in the Info Design and Usability, little on IA. Articulation Design living in IA, and Usability, little in Info Design.

    just my 2 cents.

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